How to Identify Forward-Thinking Candidates

In an economy continually disrupted by technological and cultural shifts, hiring managers and HR leaders must strive to adapt. This includes shaping interviews that vet the most forward-thinking performers who will help steer the company ship forward while also adjusting sails amid changing winds.

For example, are candidates keeping their finger on the pulse of how artificial intelligence (AI) will elevate their performance? “One benefit of the effective application of AI is that humans, freed from these repetitive tasks, are able to focus on higher-value activities,” according to an article in Expert System. A Forrester survey reports that 41 percent of decision makers already are leveraging AI tools in their business.

All the while, “soft skills are becoming the new ‘power skills,’” according to Dorothy Dalton, International Talent Management Strategist, and CEO, 3Plus International. Soft or “human” skills may include written/spoken communications, listening, empathy, collaboration, etc.

Dalton’s approach to exploring these evolutions in the workplace exhibits her own soft skills in action. She creates a dialogue with the candidate, as opposed to monologue-inducing stand-alone questions. “I think you learn more about a candidate when they are relaxed than when they feel they are being grilled,” she explains.

As such, the following are six of the behavioral interview questions Dalton uses to assess a candidate’s general awareness around hot workplace topics. She also is looking for what steps the candidate anticipates taking to manage their careers amid these transformative times.

Question #1. Describe a situation(s) where you needed to tap into your soft skills rather than your technical skills to achieve a goal. 

This straightforward question offers an opportunity for multifaceted returns as the situational story unfolds.

Why It Works: “This is a particularly helpful question for openings in technical or project management teams where cooperation, trust and relationship building are as vital to the success of the whole as hard skills,” begins Dalton. “It can throw light on working styles, communication preferences and how they deal with issues with their colleagues.”

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Question #2. What is your understanding of inclusive communication? How does that resonate with you?

Rather than identifying specific ‘inclusive initiatives’ the candidate may have spearheaded or contributed to, this question instead delves into their personal definition of a hot topic. As well, Dalton eloquently offers a platform for the candidate to mesh their core beliefs on the value of inclusiveness with the company’s values.

Why it Works: “As our workplaces become more diverse and less homogenous, I like to explore a candidate’s understanding of inclusive communication,” says Dalton. “This question allows them to highlight their awareness that people communicate differently. It can touch on verbal and non-verbal communication and throw light on how approachable they might be as a co-worker and especially as a boss. Creating psychological security is a key component of building and being on an inclusive team.”

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Question #3.  Describe a situation where you had to change your communication style to make a point. Or, share a difficult situation where you had applied listening skills. 

Why It Works: Explains Dalton,Today, listening skills are important in all jobs, but especially those that involve leadership responsibilities or in any personal interaction, such as in the healthcare and service roles. I like to see some indication that they understand the importance of finding out what is going on for the other person and that they are listening to understand rather than waiting to speak.”

“In more strategic roles involving negotiation, such as sales or procurement, or higher-level conflict situations, it is vital to understand another person’s position by asking the right questions.”

Question #4. Learning has been described as the “new pension.” Why do you think that is?  

This is a prime opportunity for the candidate to express, among other topics, familiarity with and interest in artificial intelligence trends or other technological learning topics that enable better customer experiences, improved sales and marketing results and/or ultimately can propel the company’s bottom line.

Why It Works: Moreover, Dalton relates this question to “…  fast-changing workplaces and the rate at which skills are becoming outdated. In most geographies, everyone’s working lives will be extended,” expands Dalton. 

“I am hoping to hear that at least the candidate has thought about that issue and is aware that they are the drivers of their own career. This might involve a commitment to continuous learning and a willingness to embrace new skills. I would also explore what, if anything, they currently feel they need to work on.”

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Question #5. How do you best contribute to make your team more effective?

Why It works: “This question takes a look at what the candidate thinks are their strengths without asking it directly. That question is a bit tired,” asserts Dalton.  “It shows some level of self-awareness as well as some insight into team dynamics.”

Question #6. What environment do you need to thrive? 

The open-ended discussion spurred by this question is invaluable to ensuring the candidate, the job opportunity and the overall culture are a mutual fit.

Why It Works: “I like this question because it looks again at another side of communication and work style preferences. It can throw some light on what they expect in a boss and how those preferences add value to the team. It opens up discussions around autonomy, flexibility, accountability, support and collaboration,” concludes Dalton.

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